There was just one project slated for last night’s Oak Lawn Committee and it was about a variance needed for a pair of awnings by the Uptown Marriott being built by Alamo Manhattan on Fairmount Street in back of Nick & Sam’s restaurant. The pre-awning project gained support from the OLC in December 2016. At first glance I figured the awning was a yawning – I mean one was for an 11-inch variance. Whoo-hoo! Stop the presses!
But when you go to OLC for one variance, any question becomes open mic night.
This past summer marked the migration from Las Vegas of the hotel day party by the pool. For a modest entry fee, lush bodies swerve to the thumping beats of an outdoor nightclub. Unfortunately, unlike Las Vegas, Dallas hotels aren’t located in entertainment districts. Some, like the Stoneleigh’s Splash parties, are in more densely residential Uptown.
It was with those sharp memories that residents (and OLC members) of the Stoneleigh Residences asked Alamo Manhattan if Marriott would ban amplified music outdoors. Having lived through weekly raucous parties literally out their windows, they don’t want another hotel offering a similar noise issue.
As you can see above, the Marriott’s design becomes a sound reflector towards its western neighbors. The pool deck is on the fifth floor while a tower rises behind it, pushing sound westward towards evermore residential properties.
Note: you may be looking at the picture and thinking “some buildings are pretty far away, how much can they hear?” The answer is “a lot.”
Sound moves and bounces in complex ways. To Maple Terrace, a poolside rave would be deafening with the windows closed. Bleu Ciel and Azure, the furthest away would be unable to use their patios with the noise still likely audible indoors.
Wade Johns from Alamo Manhattan claimed the Stoneleigh Hotel blocked noise from their property. But that’s only partly true. As you can see above, the Stoneleigh Residences are much taller than the Stoneleigh Hotel. The Marriott’s fifth-floor pool deck brings the noise off the ground providing an even more direct path to a majority of the Stoneleigh Residences.
Johns repeatedly said that residents should expect disruption when living in an urban area. And to some extent that’s true, the denser an area, the higher the ambient noise from everyday sounds. But living in a dense, walkable area isn’t carte blanche. Can you imagine that excuse flying if someone wanted to operate a jackhammer from noon onwards every weekend? His comment was more brush off than argument.
Regardless of the area you live in, I think we can all agree that neighbors should be wallpaper – something you can see and appreciate but not hear. Like children.
Johns also said that the sound issue had been brought up before and that Marriott wouldn’t agree to anything that limits their ability to operate a hotel. And I agree that banning amplified music completely is too harsh and unworkable. Imagine low-volume speakers pumping mood music or a string quartet on the patio. No, what the residential buildings in the sound-path should ask for is a limitation or ban on a specific type of activity or a specific decibel level limit.
Discussion turned to exploring methods to architecturally deaden sound similar to those agreed to when the as yet un-started Dream Hotel was in planning. Alamo Manhattan seemed open to discussing how they could work with neighbors while keeping their options open should they wish to host blaring, buzzy, and bathing-suited pool parties in the future.
If the groups do plan to meet, my advice is to ensure a sound engineer is in the room. Masking and modulating sound isn’t easy. Sound is waaaaay sneakier than you know.
At any rate, I’m sure Alamo Manhattan were surprised that a banal conversation about awnings veered the way it did. Just like a Christmas present, when you go to the OLC, you’re never completely sure what’s waiting in the box.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.